Beating The Runoff And Hitting The Bonanza On Silver Creek–Near Salida, CO

“… when the lawyer is swallowed up with business and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip-banks, hearthe birds sing, and posess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams…”

Izaak Walton
The Compleat Angler  (1653)

 

Late May 2017

I’m hunched down behind a big beaver dam high in the Colorado mountains.  I gingerly step on the twisted mass of branches in front of me so I can peer over the dam, the preferred way to scout out a beaver pond where the trout are often very skittish.  I carefully elevate my head and spot a nice foot-long brown trout finning in the slow current not 30 feet away.  With an extra abundance of caution, I begin my casting motion, making sure not to snag in the overhanging willows behind me…and promptly spook the fish that heads pell mell into the next county.  I can only laugh!  Fortunately, I haven’t scared off all the fish and am able to seduce a couple of brightly colored little brookies that are hiding in deeper water out of the sun.

I’ve just gotten off the road after two weeks, my annual migration from Florida to my cabin in the Colorado mountains near Salida.  It was time to escape the 90 degree heat and pesky, voracious salt water mosquitoes in the Everglades as well as the incessant political chatter about Biggly 45.  So I am in serious need of a wilderness injection and trout remedy. The problem?  The Big Ark, my home water, is running at over 1,000 CFS, which means any real wading is risk of life.  And most of my favorite streams are also blown out with runoff from the peaks.  Fortuitously, one of the local fishing gurus, Fred Rasmussen (founder of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited and conservation raconteur par excellence) has suggested trying Silver Creek as an option.  It’s only a short drive from my cabin…so here I am and let the fun begin.

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Ice Out Doubleheader–Grass Lake and Hunt Lake Near Salida, Colorado

I’m cruising through the Wet Mountain Valley on the last leg of my annual migration from Florida, eager to get a look at my home water, the Arkansas River, to see if it’s fishable.  My heart drops as I come down the hill into

North Fork Of The South Arkansas
North Fork Of The South Arkansas

Cotopaxi–the Big Ark is BIG.   When I check the water levels later I find it’s running at 3,500 cfs–I fancy myself a strong wader, but don’t go near it when it’s over 750.  AARRGGHH!!! Well, maybe the smaller creeks are in better shape….but no, when I cross the usually diminutive North Fork of the South Arkansas on the way to my cabin just outside Salida, I find it’s jumped it’s banks and is blown out.  Plan B seems to be in order–maybe a hike to one of the high country lakes near the hamlet of Monarch/Garfield, just up the road.  Next day I check in at my local fly shop, Ark Anglers, and get the good word.  Ice is out on Grass and Hunt Lakes, two of my early season favorites.  The weather report is perfect–70 degrees and sunny.  My alarm is set at 5:00 a.m!!  Grass Lake or bust!

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Hunky Dory Lake Near Salida, Colorado

 CAVEAT: The North Fork Road has reopened, but is still very rough.  Call ArkAnglers in Salida, CO, for latest information.

August 8, 2015

More rain this week kept me off the local waters, and with the weekend looming along with the  attendant crowds from the Front Range, I decided to head to a high country lake for some tranquility and, hopefully, some hungry trout.  I dug out an old 1980s guidebook to lakes in the area, and the name Hunky Dory caught my eye.  With a moniker like that, it had to be good.  (More about that name later.).

Hunky Dory sits at 12,000 feet, perched high across the rugged North Fork Valley from Mt. Shavano, a 14er.  The turnoff of US 50 up County Road 240 is at Maysville, about 10 miles west of Salida.  What made it especially intriguing is that the guidebook said there was no trail to the lake.  The hike was described as fairly short—just over a mile—but very steep, gaining 1,200 feet in that short distance.  A check on the internet revealed a couple of entries describing the fishing for cutthroat trout as good.  Who could resist. 

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